From Aid to Embroidery in Ohio, USA

High demand for wheat. The Lima Morning Star and Republican Gazette, Lima, Ohio, October 24, 1914

American wheat sales rose to unprecedented levels in the fall of 1914 due to the European war. The wheat exchange in Chicago made record sales through purchases from agents of the German and English governments.

Northwestern Elevator and Mill Company, Mount Vernon, Ohio

An Ohion newspaper headlined “Flour Mills busy” in October 1914. Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co.’s two largest mills, in Mount Vernon and Toledo, and National Milling Co. in Toledo, coped well with the large orders. They exported their entire production to Liverpool, Glasgow and Paris[1]. 

Northwestern Elevator and Mill Co, American School painting, oil on canvas, 46×61 cm; photo:

At the end of November, the mills made the newspapers again because of a humanitarian relief movement intended to help the population of occupied Belgium. The mills contributed to the relief effort of the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement, organized by the Minneapolitan trade journal Northwestern Miller.

The Fulton County Tribune, Fulton, November 27, 1914

Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co. immediately pledged 50 barrels of flour and invited the citizens of Mt. Vernon to contribute to the relief campaign by purchasing at least one sack of flour at cost price:


The Democratic Banner, Mount Vernon, December 22, 1914

“The flour is to be shipped in heavy cotton bags containing forty-nine pounds. Anyone wishing to donate, can purchase flour from us at the cost price of $5.00 per barrel. No donations will be accepted for less than one forty-nine pound sack. … We will donate 50 barrels, and trust that enough more will be donated by our generous citizens to make the shipment from Mt. Vernon at least a car load of two hundred barrels.” (The Democratic Banner, 1 december 1914)

The call for aid made by Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co. was a success: a full train car with 820 sacks of flour (205 barrels) left for Philadelphia at the end of December to be delivered to SS South Point. The local organizing committee of Mt. Vernon thanked all donors through a newspaper article:

The Democratic Banner, Mt. Vernon, December 25, 1914
Flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour”, The National Milling Co., Toledo, Ohio, 1914/15. Coll. en photo: HHLP 62.4.120

The Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement’s relief effort was successful throughout Ohio. Dozens of mills contributed for a total of 4,861 barrels of flour (equivalent to over 20 carloads, 19,444 sacks of 49 Lbs, 430 tons of flour). The Relief Report[2] stated the following regarding Ohio’s mills:

Ohio millers and residents donated 4,861 barrels of flour. Report Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement, Minneapolis, Minn., 1915

Re-use of Ohio flour sacks in Belgium

Instructions from the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement; Beatrice Daily Sun, Beatrice, Nebraska, January 2, 1915

Using cotton sacks was a necessary stimulus to the American cotton industry. The cotton sacks in which the flour was packed were intended for reuse in Belgium. The Belgian women and girls have gratefully made use of the cotton. After the sacks were emptied at the bakeries, they proceeded to make the sacks into clothes.

Flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour”, The Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co., Toledo, Ohio. Back of a jacket, 1915. Coll. HHPL; photo: Callens/Magniette
Decorated flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour”, The National Milling Co., Toledo, Ohio, 1914/15. col. and photo: HIA

An example of a jacket made from a Northwestern Elevator & Mill flour sack is part of the collection of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, West-Branch, Iowa (HHPL).

Most flour sacks are embroidered and embellished.

Belgian author Gilles wrote about a flour sack from Springfield, Ohio[3]:
Saturday 17 July 1915
The American sacks that contained the wheat flour for the Belgian National Relief and Nutrition Committee (CNSA) are particularly popular among collectors of war memories. The sacks are printed and the more characteristic the printing, the higher the sales price. A sack of 30 francs is printed with blue and red letters, the text reads in English:

                                               From the city of Springfield, Ohio
                                               As a testimony of affection
                                               Our friends the Belgians
                                               To this heroic nation
                                               God bless it!

Decorated flour sack The Moody & Thomas Milling Co, Peninsula, Ohio. Coll. and photo HHPL 62.4.391

Besides the jacket, I have located four more copies of the flour sacks delivered in Belgium by the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement.
Two embroidered flour sacks have been preserved:

One flour sack of the Moody & Thomas Milling Co., Peninsula (collection HHPL); the second of The National Milling Co., Toledo (Hoover Institution Archives collection, Stanford University, HIA).


Flour sack “DEWEY’S”, The Dewey BROS. Co., Blanchester, Ohio. Coll. WHI; photo: author

Also, two original flour sacks have been preserved: one from Dewey Bros. Co., Blanchester (collection War Heritage Institute, Brussels (WHI)); the second of The National Milling Co., Toledo (collection HHPL 62.4.120).


OHIO Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers
Six weeks later, another appeal was made to Ohioans. The Ohio Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers was founded on January 4, 1915 in Columbus. During a luncheon those present decided to raise supplies and money to help victims of the European war, with the support of State Board of Commerce staff.

The Fulton County Tribune, Fulton, January 15, 1915
Mr. Edward Drummond Libbey (1854-1925) and Mrs. Florence Scott Libbey (1863-1938), ca. 1901; photo Wikipedia

President of the committee was E.D. Libbey from Toledo, treasurer E.R. Sharp from Columbus, Secretary O.K. Shimansky from Columbus.
The state of Ohio was home to European emigrants and their descendants from many countries; that is why the Commission made a broad effort to provide assistance to “European War Sufferers”. Priority was given to assistance to the Belgian population; the commission intended to secure a shipload of provisions for the Belgians to be moved early in February 1915.

The Ohio Woman’s Auxiliary: Mrs. Estelle Thompson, née Clark
Although men were appointed to the committee, women carried out the work. The existing and well-managed women’s organizations started working centrally and locally. Communication proceeded through letters, calls and advertisements in the newspapers; orally at regular meetings of clubs, churches and schools.

History of the Woman’s Section of the CRB, 1915

The Ohio Woman’s Auxiliary was headed by Mrs. Estelle Godfrey Thompson, née Clark (Massillon, Stark County 13.02.1862 – Columbus 29.06.1945), wife of President William Oxley Thompson of Ohio State University in Columbus. Mrs. Wm. O. Thompson was a member of The Woman’s Section of The Commission for Relief in Belgium, serving both on the “Executive Co-operating Committee” as chair of  the National Federation of College Women as the “State Chairmen” as chair of Ohio.

Estelle Clark Tompson in “Woman’s Who is Who in America, 1914/15”

Estelle Clark Thompson descended from a well-to-do Cleveland family; she worked as a teacher of dramatics at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. At the age of 32 she married William Thompson; she was his third wife; he was twice widowed and had two daughters from his first and two sons from his second marriage. Estelle Clark Thompson took care of the four young children; she remained childless herself. She played an active role in Ohio women’s organizations and campaigned for women’s rights: “Favors women suffrage”.

Detail flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; 1915/16. Coll. and photo CCHSM no. 4003

Mr. Brand Whitlock and Mrs. Ella Whitlock, née Brainerd
During World War I, the diplomat Brand Whitlock (Urbana, Ohio, USA 04.03.1869 – Cannes, France 24.05.1934) was American minister plenipotentiary in Belgium seating in Brussels. He acted as patron of the international “Commission for Relief in Belgium” (CRB) and the Belgian National Relief Committee “Comité National de Secours et d’Alimentation” (CNSA), the organizations that coordinated and implemented food relief for the population in occupied Belgium.

Mrs. Ella Brainerd Whitlock; photo: Library of Congress

He lived in Brussels with his wife, Ella Whitlock, née Brainerd (Springfield, Ill. 25.09.1876 – Brewster, NY 11.07.1942). Ella Brainerd Whitlock worked energetically to help the Belgian population and closely collaborated with the Belgian women’s organizations.

Detail flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; portrait L. van Loo, 1915/16. Coll. and photo CCHSM, no. 4003

Brand Whitlock felt connected to the state of Ohio. Before becoming a diplomat in 1914, he had been elected mayor of Toledo four times (1906-1914); he had worked there as a lawyer from 1897. Due to his connection with Ohio, he became member of the honorary advisory commission of the Ohio Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers. He successfully appealed to the American people to aid the Belgians with food.

As a result of their work, the Whitlocks received many gifts for their efforts, including decorated flour sacks.

After her husband passed away, Ella Brainerd Whitlock returned to the US. She donated many objects, including their interesting collection of flour sacks to the Champaign County Historical Society in Urbana and Toledo. The Champaign County Historical Society Museum in Urbana (CCHSM) preserves this collection. See also the blog: Flour sack trip from Urbana to Overijse

Flour sacks with portrait of Brand Whitlock
Two flour sacks with Brand Whitlock’s portrait stand out.

Embroidered flour sack “American Commission”/ Brand Whitlock; 1915. Coll. and photo CCHSM, no. 4001

The origin of flour sack no. 4001 is “American Commission”; the Belgian embroiderer added as texts: “A.S.E.M. Brand Whitlock, M. P. des Etats-Unis à Bruxelles; E Pluribus Unum; La Belgique Reconnaissante 1914-1915”. The portrait looks like a lithography, surrounded by an embroidered green laurel wreath; to the left and right of the portrait are embroideries of the Belgian and American flags; on the lower part of the flour sack the “Great Shield of the United States” is embroidered, along with the eagle with spread wings and the stars representing the thirteen original colonies of the US plus the text: “E Pluribus Unum”.

Decorated flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; portrait L. van Loo, 1915/16. Coll. and photo CCHSM, no. 4003, recto
Decorated flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; 1915/16. col. and photo CCHSM, no. 4003, verso

The other flour sack, no. 4003, bears the original print “Contributed by the People of Kentucky and Southern Indiana” via The Louisville Herald, produced by Louisville Milling Co, Louisville, KY. In Belgium, the sack had been printed with red letters: “A Son Excellence Monsieur Brand Whitlock, Ministre des Etats-Unis à Bruxelles. La Belgique entière acclame les Etats-Unis.” The flags of Belgium and the US are embroidered, as are the letters of the original print. The photo portrait of Brand Whitlock is colorized, signed “L. van Loo”. The photographer may presumably have been Leo Petrus Julius (Leon) van Loo (Sint-Joris-ten Distel 19.08.1841 – Cincinnati 10.01.1907) He was an art photographer born in Belgium, who emigrated to Ohio at the age of 15, following his Ghent teacher Charles Waldack. Waldack was able to emigrate to Cincinnati, because Leon van Loo’s father paid him in exchange for his son’s training as a photographer. Van Loo lived in Cincinnati for the rest of his life. It seems likely that he made a photo portrait of (a younger) Brand Whitlock in the US and that a print of the portrait ended up in his old hometown Ghent, Belgium, where it has been used for the flour sack(s).

SS Naneric; photo: Allen C. Green series (online)

State Ship SS Naneric
CRB’s New York office contracted the British steamship Naneric as State Ship of Ohio. SS Naneric had made an earlier trip to Calcutta, India, and had to voyage from there to New York to take the cargo on board. On that 65-day voyage from Calcutta to New York, SS Naneric passed through the Suez Canal and was caught up in war. The battle it found itself in was between the Allied army, supported by fire from French and British cruisers, and a Turkish land force, commanded by German officers.
Captain Tulloch of the Naneric reported that his steamer entered the Suez Canal on February 1, 1915 but had not been allowed to proceed because of the battle. After days delay, the vessel was permitted to proceed to Port Said, protected with sandbags. On March 8, SS Naneric docked in Philadelphia.[4]

The Ohio women’s fundraising campaigns were successful; trains brought carloads of flour to New York Harbor.

The Democratic Banner, Mt. Vernon, February 19, 1915
The Democratic Banner, March 9, 1915

On March 27, SS Naneric departed from New York as the Ohio State Ship with the relief supplies on board and arrived in Rotterdam around April 20. The relief supplies were transferred to barges for transit to the Belgian villages and towns. By the end of April, the Belgian bakers were able to bake bread from the flour and the local population could taste the good gifts that the people of the state of Ohio had given for a second time.

Original flour sack Bakoto Flour, Canton Feed & M’L’G Co., Canton, Ohio, 1915. Photo: US Embassy in Belgium

With the emptied flour sacks, the Belgian women and girls could continue with their charitable work, transforming them into souvenirs.

Nine embroidered sacks, presumably from the State Ship Ohio, have been preserved.

  • A sack of “Bakoto Flour” from Bako Mills, Canton Feed and M’L’G Co., Canton, is in the Embassy of the United States of America in Belgium in Brussels[5];
  • Three preserved “Square Deal” sacks from The Gwinn Milling Co., Columbus are in the Musée de la Vie wallonne in Liège (one embroidered, one original), respectively in Mons Memorial Museum in Mons (one embroidered);
  • Decorated flour sack “Square Deal”, The Gwinn Milling Co., Columbus, Ohio, 1915/16. Coll. Musée de la Vie wallonne
  • Detail original flour sack “The Famous White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills. Coll. RAHM Tx 2648 ; photo: author

    Five flour sacks “The Famous White Loaf Roller Flour” by Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, are preserved in both a private collection in Belgium (98 Lbs) and in the United Kingdom (49 Lbs) (both embroidered): at the In Flanders Fields Museum (IFFM), Ypres (98 Lbs, embroidered, panel in folding screen); at the Royal Art & History Museum (RAHM), Brussels (49 Lbs, original sack, Tx 2648); at Hoover Institution Archives, Palo Alto, Ca. (24 1/2 Lbs embroidered).

Burrer Mills, Sunbury, 1929; photo:

Sunbury Mills, G. J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio
The history of the Sunbury Mills mill is detailed on the website of the Big Walnut Historical Society located at the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury.
Gottleib Jacob (Jakie) Burrer (Germany, 03.01.1848 – Sunbury 18.02.1926) owned Sunbury Mills since 1875. It was a family business. He was married to Amy Ann Gammill; their sons Karl (age in 1914: 35), Paul (28), Rudolph (26) and Gordon (20) worked in the expanding business (including electricity generation and supply), which meant a lot to Sunbury. Sunbury Mills has been the longest operating mill in Sunbury. In 1945 the mill, which had meanwhile merged with the Condit Elevators, was sold to the Farm Bureau.

Charlotte Burrer, née Pagels: American Flour Sack Embroiderer in Ohio
The youngest Burrer son, Gordon Jacob (Sunbury 02.02.1894 – Pleasant Ridge, Ohio, 04.07.1960) is a war veteran. He served in World War I, in 1917/18, as a captain in the US Army Infantry.
At the age of 35 he married Charlotte Grace Pagels (1895 – Hamilton, Ohio, July 2, 1991); they married on October 3,1929 at Pleasant Ridge, near Cincinnati. They had three children: Charlotte Amy, Gordon Jacob and Frederick Pagels. Charlotte Pagels Burrer’s grandparents had been German emigrants.

Hoover Tower, 1941; photo: HIA

Charlotte deserves eternal glory for embroidering a Sunbury Mills flour sack! Yes, a flour sack “The Famous White Loaf Roller Flour” by Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury.
In which year she embroidered the flour sack I do not know, but it seems she produced the embroidery after a visit to the Hoover Tower at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California[6]. She became acquainted with the collection of decorated flour sacks in the archives of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, kept in the Hoover Institution Archives and was surprised to see an embroidered flour sack “White Loaf” from Sunbury Mills.

Decorated flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio. Embroidered in Belgium in 1915/16. Was a model for a replica of Ch. Pagel’s Burrer. Coll. Hoover Institution Archives

It inspired Charlotte to embroider exactly such a flour sack.

Embroidered Flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, Sunbury, Ohio. Replica of flour sack in Hoover Institution Archives. Embroiderer Charlotte Burrer, née Pagels, Cincinnati, Ohio. Coll. and photo: Community Library, Sunbury

Back home in Ohio, she looked for a flour sack printed with the “White Loaf” brand at Sunbury Mills and got to work. A so-called ‘Replica’ of the flour sacks decorated in Belgium during WW I was born; it is proudly preserved in Sunbury’s Community Library.
Former Sunbury librarian, Mrs. Polly Horn, is now curator of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury. She published a photo of Charlotte’s embroidered flour sack in her “Burrer Mills” blog. Thanks to her I came into possession of a photo of this embroidery by an American flour sack embroiderer: Charlotte Pagels Burrer.

Embroidery of flour sacks in WW I: getting started

American booklet about the “Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks” with embroidery patterns and detailed descriptions. Photo: Giftshop HHPLM

The embroidery of flour sacks in times of war and occupation has been a remarkable undertaking by Belgian women and girls in 1915/16. The recognition for their special work is recorded in the American booklet “Out of War. A Legacy of Art”.[7]

The publication came about as a group project from the Red Cedar Questers, Iowa. Belle Walton Hinkhouse took the initiative and Joanne Evans Hemmingway led the project to bring about the release.

Central to the book is the collection of decorated flour sacks from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa. Former curator Phyllis Foster Danks of the museum (circa 1977-1986) contributed with her expertise on the “Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks”.

Embroidery pattern “Viking ship” with description in the American booklet about the “Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks” (HHPL 62.4.401)

Two experienced embroidery teachers, Catherine Robinder and Angeline Hoover Shuh, analyzed the embroidery on the flour sacks.

Embroidery pattern “Bluebird” with description in the American booklet about the ‘Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks’. (HHPL 62.4.432)

They concentrated on decorations added by the Belgian women themselves and chose six copies for a reconstruction. The result are six embroidery patterns with detailed descriptions of threads used and embroidery stitches. Embroiderers receive instructions on which cloth to use for the pattern: you could use a sack, but that’s not necessary.
The embroidery patterns are:

  • Woman and sheep
  • Flemish scene
  • Viking ship
  • Bluebirds
  • Violets
  • Poppies


Anyone who wants to, can get started! Just like Charlotte Grace Pagel’s Burrer did embroidering her Sunbury flour sack.

Decorated flour sacks can inspire even more creative crafts!

Embroidered flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio, 1915. Private coll. United Kingdom
Embroidered flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio, 1915/16. Private coll. Belgium










Embroidered flour sack ”White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio, 1915/16. Panel in folding screen. Coll. IFFM

Thanks to:
– Mrs. Polly Horn, curator of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury, Ohio, for the wealth of information she sent me about the Sunbury Mill and the Burrer family. She is the author of dozens of blogs on the Big Walnut Area Historical Society.
Watch my program at YouTube:  “Decorated Flour Sacks in WWI. From Aid to Embroidery in Ohio”.
Program of the Big Walnut Area Historical Society, Ohio. Mrs. Polly Horn, director of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury invited me to develop this presentation. Enjoy!
– Mrs. Cheryl Ogden, director, and Megan, intern, of the Champaign County Historical Society Museum;
– Hubert Bovens from Wilsele, Belgium, for researching the biographical data of photographer Leon van Loo.

[1] The Tribune, Coshocton, Ohio, October 22, 1914

[2] Edgar, William C., ‘The Millers’ Belgian Relief Movement 1914-15 conducted by The Northwestern Miller. Final Report of its director William C. Edgar, Editor of the Northwestern Miller, MCMXV’. Minneapolis, Minn. USA, 1915

[3] Gille, Louis, Ooms, Alphonse, Delandsheere, Paul, Cinquante Mois d’Occupation Allemande. Volume I 1914-1915. Brussels: Librairie Albert Dewit, 1919

[4] Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, 9 maart 1915

[5] The US Ambassador, Mr. Gidwitz, showed the flour sack during a recorded message at the online opening of the exhibition ‘When Minnesota Fed the European Children’ on October 12, 2020. Here the link to the YouTube recording of the opening, the American ambassador speaks 4 minutes: you can find it between 3.30 and 7.50 min.

[6] The two black and white photographs of Hoover Tower and the embroidered Sunbury Mills flour sack in HIA are from the book: Danielson, Elena S., Hoover Tower at Stanford University. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2018

[7] Hemingway, Joanne, Hinkhouse, Belle, Out of War. A Legacy of Art. West Branch, Iowa: Iowa State Questors, 1995.

“Out of War. A Legacy of Art” is available for purchase for $9.95 in the Gift Shop of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa, USA.




Flour sacks. The art of charity

My article ” Flour sacks. The art of charity” has been published in the 2020 Yearbook of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres!

English translation in the Yearbook 2020 In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres

In the summer of 2019, I conducted research into the decorated WWI flour sacks in the museum’s collection*). The museum possesses 23 original flour sacks, eight of those have been included in Flanders’ List of Masterpieces as unique heritage items.

In my article, I report in word and image on my discoveries and give historical context to the Ypres collection of flour sacks. The following topics are discussed: the supply of food to Belgium; the US charities with a graph of contributions by state; Madame Lalla Vandervelde, her journey through America and successful appeal for aid to the Belgians; examples of the Belgian charities with an infographic showing dozens of sales exhibitions of flour sacks held between 1915-1925; girls’ education in vocational schools with unique photos of their lessons; German censorship on decorated flour sacks.

My conclusion is: decorated flour sacks are the symbol of the many charities run and supported by Belgian women and girls during the occupation, besides the symbol of food aid and gratitude.

The IFFM Yearbook 2020 is beautifully designed by Manu Veracx. The original Dutch article with 17 color and 7 black and white illustrations, is fully translated in English by Marc Hutsebaut; it covers 9 pages.

You can order the IFFM Yearbook 2020 here.

Collection flour sacks In Flanders Fields Museum. Artistic photo collage: Annelien van Kempen, April 2020. IFFM Yearbook 2020

*) Marc Dejonckheere interviewed me for VIFF Magazine, magazine of The Friends of the In Flanders Fields Museum; “The emotions of the flour sack” was published in September 2019.

De weldaad van de meelzak

Mijn artikel ‘De weldaad van de meelzak’ is verschenen! Het is gepubliceerd in het Jaarboek 2020 van het In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper.

In de zomer van 2019 deed ik onderzoek naar de versierde meelzakken van WO I in de collectie van het museum*). Het museum bezit 23 originele meelzakken, waarvan acht exemplaren op de Topstukkenlijst zijn geplaatst als beschermd Vlaams erfgoed.

In mijn artikel doe ik -in woord en beeld- verslag van mijn ontdekkingen en geef historische context aan de Ieperse collectie meelzakken. Aan de orde komen: de bevoorrading van België; de Amerikaanse liefdadigheid met een grafiek van de bijdragen per staat; Madame Lalla Vandervelde, haar reis door Amerika en succesvolle oproep tot hulp voor de Belgische bevolking; voorbeelden van de Belgische liefdadigheid met een infographic waarin tientallen verkooptentoonstellingen zijn genoemd gehouden tussen 1915-1925; het meisjesonderwijs op beroepsscholen met unieke foto’s van hun lessen; Duitse censuur op versierde meelzakken.

Ik kom tot de conclusie dat versierde meelzakken naast het symbool van voedselhulp en dankbaarheid ook het symbool zijn van de veelvoudige weldaden van Belgische vrouwen en meisjes tijdens de bezetting.

Het IFFM Jaarboek 2020 is prachtig vormgegeven door Manu Veracx. Mijn artikel beslaat 22 bladzijden en bevat 17 kleuren en 7 z/w illustraties; de Engelse vertaling is van de hand van Marc Hutsebaut, het beslaat 9 bladzijden.

U kunt het IFFM Jaarboek 2020 hier bestellen.

Collage van foto’s van de collectie meelzakken van het In Flanders Fields Museum; artistic photo collage: Annelien van Kempen, April 2020. IFFM Jaarboek 2020

*) Marc Dejonckheere interviewde mij voor het tijdschrift van de Vrienden van het In Flanders Fields Museum, VIFF. Het interview ‘De emotie van de meelzak’ verscheen in september 2019.

Trotting on a flour sack

Ball games have always been around in history. How nice would it be if balls were to appear on decorated flour sacks from WWI: printed on the original flour sack in North America or embroidered/painted in Belgium?
I would like to write a blog about it.
The thought came to my mind because of Matthew Schaefer’s blog, “Opening Day, Baseball and Tough Times,” about Herbert Hoover’s involvement in baseball. It recently appeared on the blog of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, USA. Archivist Matthew Schaefer regularly publishes on “Hoover Heads”, blogs covering a wide variety of topics related to the life and work of the man who was director of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and later became the 31st President of the United States of America, Herbert Hoover, and his wife Lou Henry Hoover.
But since I have not yet found a ball on any flour sack, I would like to present another sport on a flour sack, namely the equestrian sport.

“Roller Mills IXL”, one of eight panels with decorated flour sacks in the folding screen. Coll. IFFM IFF 002733


Trotter and driver on a sulky, detail folding screen. Coll. IFFM
‘Roller Mills’ in backstitch. Coll. IFFM

Trotting on a flour sack
The first “equestrian sack” I got to know was in the collection of the In Flanders Fields Museum (IFFM) in Ypres. It is part of a folding screen which consists of 8 panels with decorated flour sacks. One of the panels is the flour sack “Roller Mills IXL” with the image of harness racing: a fast trotting horse in front of a sulky with large wheels and a concentrated driver on it.
During my flour sack research at IFFM in June 2019, I was able to study the horse and driver on the folding screen in the Depotyze depot at Zonnebeekseweg.

The driver on the sulky in green tunic with double row of golden buttons. Coll. IFFM

The flour sack was first painted and colored. Then the embroidery was done: the contours of the horse along the neckline and some accents on the green uniform of the driver. The jacket has a double row of golden buttons, the crease of the pants and the headgear are accentuated. The details of his face are entertaining: black stitches form the eyes and a proud mustache!

Kepi of the Belgian ‘chasseurs à pied 1837, 1845, 1850

The headgear most resembles the kepi of the Belgian ‘chasseur à pied’ or the ‘karabanier’.[1] Even a regimental number has been added with some black stitches.


The X of “IXL” in backstitch with French buttons

The contours of the letters “Roller Mills” are embroidered in backstitch. The letters IXL are filled with stitches and “French buttons”. Underneath that is the word “FANCY”, also embroidered, but the letters have been cut in half because the panel’s nails are punched into the fabric at that location.

A beautiful flour sack, unfortunately without an indication of the origin of the mill, which has donated the sack filled with flour to Belgium.
Which mill sent this sack, where did the flour come from? After hours of unsuccessful online research and days thinking about a way to find out the name of the mill, I got an idea. Equestrian sport.

The unprocessed flour sack IXL, Central Milling Co., Logan, Utah. Coll. RMAH Tx 2650

Horse racing
I remembered the Bulletin of the Art & History Museum (RMAH) in Brussels. In it, Professor Guy Delmarcel of UCLouvain published an interesting article about the museum’s collection of decorated flour sacks in 2013. [2] He described a flour sack depicting “horse racing” with inventory number Tx 2650. Appendix 1 to the article, the “List of American Flour Sacks in the RMAH” listed the state of Utah, brand name IXL, miller Central Milling Co. in the town of Logan.
Even without seeing a picture of the RMAH flour sack, I thought: “IXL in combination with horse racing: YES! that may well be the right combination, also for the flour sack in the IFFM folding screen!”

In February 2020 I was able to study the RMAH collection in Brussels for a day. I have indeed found the second equestrian sack, my assumption was correct.

Trotter and driver on sulky. Unprocessed flour sack IXL, Central Milling Co. Coll. RMAH Tx 2650
Trotter at full speed. Coll. RMAH

It is intriguing to compare the two harness racing sacks with my photos from Brussels and Ypres: the American print of the unprocessed flour sack next to the processed flour sack with Belgian painting and embroidery.
The horse races just as intense, the driver is just as concentrated. But there are differences: the large wheels of the sulky have gossamer spokes, the driver wears a jacket with a single row of ordinary buttons, the pants are without fold, on the head there is a cap with visor. The eyes look straight ahead and the mustache is a little less pleasing on the upper lip.
All in all, the Belgian adaptation has made a colorful spectacle of the trotting.

Logan, Utah
I have tried to study the history of Central Milling Co. in Logan, Utah, starting from the question: why is harness racing depicted on the flour sack of this mill?

The old mill of Central Mills in Logan. On the right the Deseret Mills. Left the Logan Utah Temple. Photo: Central Milling Co. website

The city of Logan is the largest city in Utah after the capital Salt Lake City. Utah is known for half the population being Mormons affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The large Logan Utah Temple defines Logan’s cityscape. “A History of Cache County” [3] gives an impression of the arrival of the settlers in this part of the US, life in Logan and the County Cache in the early 20th century.

Photo: ‘A History of Cache County’

Founded in 1867, Central Milling is one of the oldest companies in Utah still operating today. Central Milling will have emerged as a cooperative of farmers who had their grain milled together. The society of Mormon settlers tackled many businesses together, leading to successful businesses. Railways were also constructed, accelerating transportation of goods to other states and accelerating the economic development of the Cache County agricultural area. Central Milling became a leading producer of flour using the industrial roller mill system for grinding grain. The mill was located on the Logan River, which supplied hydropower to power the machines. During WWI, the company was owned by 50 shareholders, the founders of the company. In 1917, Herbert R. Weston of Idaho bought out all 50 shareholders and the Weston family then ran the company for 80 years. The current mill has merged with Gilt Edge Mills and focuses on the production of organic flour products based on the philosophy of cooperation between farmers, millers and bakeries.

Photo: ‘A History of Cache County’

Harness racing
Baseball and horse racing were the primary outdoor sports for the people who settled in Utah.[4] They paid a lot of attention to the breeding and training of racehorses. A good half mile racetrack was laid out in Logan at the “Church Farm” in 1881, the public came from many areas around Logan and had a great time during horseraces and harness races, especially on Sundays and public holidays. The website mentions by name the successful stallions, geldings and mares and their owners from that era.
Through this information the link between harness racing and the flour sacks of Central Milling Co. is clearly established. But we will have to stay in the dark with regards to the names of the horse and the owner.

Lou Henry Hoover on horseback, circa 1931. Photo: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

Lou Henry Hoover
Matthew Schaefer informed me that Herbert Hoover was not a fan of horses, he rode infrequently. On the other hand, his wife Lou Henry Hoover loved horses and was a good rider.

Matthew added that he had recently attended the opening of the exhibit “The Pull of Horses” at the University of Iowa Library in Iowa City.

Trotter in Logan, Utah. Detail flour sack folding screen. Coll. IFFM

To him it was enlightening to be reminded of the ubiquity of horses 100 years ago.
I myself received this feeling of enlightenment through the study of trotting horses on the decorated flour sacks of WWI in the collections of IFFM in Ypres and RMAH in Brussels.


Featured image:
Part of a digital photo collage of the collection of decorated flour sacks from WWI in the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres. Photo collage: Tamara Raats, 2020.


Many thanks to:
– Els de Roo of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres. She received me as the first visiting researcher in Depotyze to research the folding screen with eight panels of decorated flour sacks, including panel ‘IXL’;
– Dr. Ingrid De Meûter and Ria Cooreman of the Royal Art & History Museum in Brussels. They gave me the opportunity to study the museum’s collection of flour sacks from WWI, the so-called ‘Errera Collection’, which includes the unprocessed flour sack ‘IXL, Central Milling Co.’.

[1] My sincere thanks to Rob Troubleyn for the information about the kepi of the Belgian “chasseurs à pied” and the “karabaniers”.

Kepi of the Belgian “karabaniers”

He corrected my earlier interpretation, the kepi of the French “chasseur forestier”, 1884 model, see the Dossiers/Files In Flanders Fields Museum 9, From Tradition to Protection. French military headgear in the First World War. Exhibition prepared by Philippe Oosterlinck i.c.w. Dominiek Dendooven

[2] Delmarcel, Guy, Pride of Niagara. Best Winter Wheat. Amerikaanse Meelzakken als textiele getuigen van Wereldoorlog I (American Flour Sacks as textile witnesses of World War I). Brussels, Parc Cinquantenaire: Bulletin of the Art and History Museum, volume 84, 2013, p. 97-126.

[3] F. Ross Peterson, A History of Cache County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, Cache County Council, 1997

[4] An Early History of Cache County… compiled by M.R. Hovey, Logan Chamber of Commerce, 1923. At website MendonUtah.Net


In draf op een meelzak

Balspelen zijn er in de geschiedenis altijd geweest. Hoe leuk zou het zijn als er ballen zouden opduiken op versierde meelzakken van WO I: bedrukt op de originele meelzak in Noord-Amerika of geborduurd of beschilderd in België?
Ik zou er graag een blog over schrijven.
De gedachte kwam bij me op door het blog van Matthew Schaefer:  ‘Opening Day, Baseball and Tough Times’ over de betrokkenheid van Herbert Hoover bij de baseball sport. Het verscheen recent op de blogwebsite  van de Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West-Branch, Iowa, VS. Matthew Schaefer is er archivaris en publiceert met regelmaat op ‘Hoover Heads’,  blogs met een grote variëteit aan onderwerpen rondom het leven en werken van de man die directeur was van de Commission for Relief in Belgium en later de 31ste President van de Verenigde Staten van Amerika werd, Herbert Hoover, en zijn vrouw Lou Henry Hoover.

Maar omdat ik tot heden geen bal op enige meelzak heb aangetroffen presenteer ik graag een andere sport op een meelzak en wel de paardensport.

‘Roller Mills IXL’, een van de acht panelen met versierde meelzakken in het kamerscherm. Coll. IFFM IFF 002733


Draver en pikeur op sulky, detail kamerscherm. Coll. IFFM
‘Roller Mills’ in stiksteken. Coll. IFFM

In draf op een meelzak
De eerste ‘paardensport-zak’ waar ik kennis mee maakte, bevond zich in de collectie van het In Flanders Fields Museum (IFFM) in Ieper. In de collectie is een kamerscherm, bestaande uit 8 panelen met versierde meelzakken. Eén paneel is de meelzak ‘Roller Mills IXL’ met de afbeelding van een fel dravend paard voor een sulky met grote wielen en daarop een geconcentreerd mennende pikeur.
Tijdens mijn meelzakkenonderzoek in IFFM in juni 2019 heb ik de draver en pikeur op het kamerscherm van nabij mogen bestuderen in het depot Depotyze aan de Zonnebeekseweg.

De pikeur op de sulky in groene uniformjas met dubbele rij gouden knopen. Coll. IFFM

De meelzak is eerst beschilderd en van kleuren voorzien. Dan is het borduurwerk aangebracht: de contouren van het paard langs de halslijn en enkele accenten op het groene uniform van de pikeur. Het jasje heeft een dubbele rij gouden knopen, de vouw van de broek en het hoofddeksel zijn geaccentueerd. De details van het gezicht zijn vermakelijk: zwarte steekjes maken de ogen en zetten een trotse snor!

Kepi van de Belgische ‘chasseurs à pied’ 1837, 1845 en 1850

Het hoofddeksel lijkt het meest op de kepi van een Belgische ‘chasseur à pied’ òf een karabanier. Zelfs een regimentsnummer is met enkele zwarte steekjes aangebracht. [1]


De X van ‘IXL’ in stiksteken met Franse knoopjes

De contouren van de letters ‘Roller Mills’ zijn in stiksteken geborduurd. De letters IXL zijn opgevuld met stiksteken en ‘Franse knoopjes’. Daaronder staat het woord ‘FANCY’, ook geborduurd, maar de letters zijn gehalveerd omdat de nagels van het paneel op die plaats in de stof zijn geslagen.

Een fraaie meelzak, jammer genoeg zonder herkomst aanduiding van de maalderij, die de zak met meel gevuld geschonken heeft aan België.
Welke maalderij heeft deze zak verstuurd, waar kwam het meel vandaan? Na uren tevergeefs online speurwerk en dagen nadenken over een manier om achter de naam van de maalderij te komen, kreeg ik een ingeving. De paardensport.

De onbewerkte meelzak IXL van Central Milling Co., Logan, Utah. Coll. KMKG Tx 2650

Ik herinnerde me het Bulletin van de Koninklijk Musea Kunst & Geschiedenis (KMKG) in Brussel. Daarin heeft professor Guy Delmarcel van KULeuven in 2013 een interessant artikel gepubliceerd over de collectie versierde meelzakken van het museum.[2] Hij beschreef een meelzak met een beeld van ‘paardenrennen’ met inventarisnummer Tx 2650. Bijlage 1 bij het artikel, de ‘Lijst van de Amerikaanse meelzakken in de KMKG’ vermeldde bij dit nummer de staat Utah, merknaam IXL, maalderij Central Milling Co. in de plaats Logan.
Ook zonder foto van de KMKG-meelzak te hebben gezien, dacht ik: “IXL in combinatie met paardenrennen: YES! dat zal best eens de goede combinatie kunnen zijn, ook voor de meelzak in het IFFM kamerscherm!”

In februari 2020 heb ik de collectie van het KMKG in Brussel een dag mogen bestuderen. En heb inderdaad de tweede paardensport-zak gevonden, mijn vermoeden was juist.

Draver en pikeur op sulky. Onbewerkte meelzak IXL, Central Milling Co. Coll. KMKG Tx 2650
Draver op volle snelheid. Coll. KMKG

Het is intrigerend om aan de hand van mijn foto’s uit Brussel en Ieper de twee paardensport-zakken met elkaar te vergelijken: de Amerikaanse bedrukking van de onbewerkte meelzak naast de bewerkte meelzak met Belgische beschildering en borduurwerk.
Het paard draaft even fel, de pikeur is net zo geconcentreerd. Verschillen zijn er ook: de grote wielen van de sulky hebben ragfijne spaken, de pikeur draagt een jas met enkele rij knopen, de broek heeft geen vouw, op het hoofd staat een pet met klep. Ogen kijken recht vooruit en de snor staat iets minder genoegzaam op de bovenlip.
Al met al heeft de Belgische bewerking een kleurrijk schouwspel gemaakt van de draverij.

Logan, Utah
De geschiedenis van de maalderij Central Milling Co. in Logan, Utah heb ik geprobeerd te bestuderen vanuit de vraagstelling: waarom staat de drafsport afgebeeld op de meelzak van deze maalderij?

De oude maalderij van Central Mills in Logan. Rechts de Deseret Mills. Links de Logan Utah Temple. Foto: website Central Milling Co.

De stad Logan is na de hoofdstad Salt Lake City de grootste stad van Utah. Utah staat erom bekend dat de helft van de bevolking Mormonen zijn, aangesloten bij de Kerk van Jezus Christus van de Heiligen der laatste Dagen. Een grote tempel bepaalt het stadsbeeld van Logan. In ‘A History of Cache County’[3] is een indruk gegeven van de komst van de ‘settlers’ in dit deel van de VS, het leven in Logan en de ‘County Cache’, begin 20ste eeuw.

Interieur Central Mill, circa 1907. Foto: ‘A History of Cache County’

Central Milling is opgericht in 1867 en een van de oudste ondernemingen in Utah die nog altijd in bedrijf is. Central Milling zal als coöperatie zijn ontstaan van boeren die gezamenlijk hun graan lieten malen. De samenleving van Mormoonse settlers pakten velerlei ondernemingen tesamen aan, wat leidde tot succesvolle bedrijven. Ook spoorlijnen werden aangelegd, waardoor transport van goederen naar andere staten werd versneld en de economische ontwikkeling van het agrarische gebied in Cache County in hoog tempo verliep. Central Milling werd een vooraanstaand producent van meel door gebruik te maken van het industriële ‘roller mill’ systeem om graan te malen. De maalderij was gevestigd aan de Logan River die waterkracht leverde om de machines aan te drijven. Tijdens WO I was het bedrijf eigendom van 50 aandeelhouders, de oprichters van de onderneming. In 1917 kocht Herbert R. Weston uit Idaho alle 50 aandeelhouders uit en de Weston familie runde het bedrijf vervolgens 80 jaar. De huidige maalderij is samengegaan met Gilt Edge Mills en richt zich op het voortbrengen van biologische meelproducten vanuit de filosofie van samenwerking tussen boeren, molenaars en bakkers.

Dorsmachine die werkt op paardenkracht. Foto: ‘A History of Cache County’

De drafsport
Baseball en paardenraces waren de voornaamste buitensporten voor de mensen die zich kwamen settelen in Utah.[4] Ze besteedden veel aandacht aan het fokken en trainen van racepaarden. Een goede renbaan van een halve mijl was in Logan aangelegd op de ‘Church Farm’ in 1881, het publiek kwam uit vele streken rondom Logan en vermaakte zich uitstekend tijdens de races en draverijen, vooral op zon- en feestdagen. De website noemt succesvolle hengsten, ruinen en merries en hun eigenaars uit die tijd bij naam. De link met de draver op de meelzakken van Central Milling Co. is hiermee duidelijk gelegd. De naam van het paard en de eigenaar zullen we echter moeten blijven gissen.

Lou Henry Hoover te paard, circa 1931. Foto: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

Lou Henry Hoover
Desgevraagd berichtte Matthew Schaefer me dat Herbert Hoover geen paarden-fan was, hij reed af en toe, maar zijn vrouw Lou Henry Hoover reed des te meer paard. Zij was een uitstekende amazone.

Matthew voegde eraan toe dat hij recent aanwezig was geweest bij de opening van een tentoonstelling ‘The Pull of Horses’ in de bibliotheek van de Universiteit van Iowa in Iowa City.

Draver in Logan, Utah. Detail meelzak kamerscherm. Coll. IFFM

Hij noemde het verhelderend om herinnerd te worden aan de alomtegenwoordigheid van paarden 100 jaar geleden.
Die verheldering kwam tot mij door het paard in draf op de versierde meelzakken van WO I in de collecties van IFFM in Ieper en KMKG in Brussel.





Uitgelichte afbeelding:
Gedeelte van een digitale fotocollage van de collectie versierde meelzakken van WO I in het In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper. Foto-collage: Tamara Raats, 2020.

Mijn dank gaat uit naar:
– Els de Roo van het In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper. Ze ontving me als eerste bezoekende onderzoeker in Depotyze voor research van het kamerscherm met acht panelen van versierde meelzakken, waaronder paneel ‘IXL’ ;
– Dr. Ingrid De Meûter en Ria Cooreman van het Museum Kunst & Geschiedenis in Brussel. Ze hebben me de gelegenheid geboden de collectie meelzakken van WO I  van het museum, de zgn. ‘Collectie Errera’ , waarin opgenomen de onbewerkte meelzak ‘IXL, Central Milling Co.’, te bestuderen.

[1] Met dank aan Rob Troubleyn voor de informatie over de kepi van de

Kepi van de Belgische karabaniers

Belgische ‘chasseurs à pied’ en de karabaniers.
Hij corrigeerde mijn eerdere interpretatie, de kepi van een Franse ‘chasseur forestier’ (jager-boswachter), model 1884, zie Dossiers/Files In Flanders Fields Museum, Van Traditie naar Bescherming. Franse militaire hoofddeksels uit de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Samenstelling Philippe Oosterlinck mmv Dominiek Dendooven

[2] Delmarcel, Guy, Pride of Niagara. Best Winter Wheat. Amerikaanse Meelzakken als textiele getuigen van Wereldoorlog I. Brussel, Jubelpark: Bulletin van de Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, deel 84, 2013, p. 97-126

[3] F. Ross Peterson, A History of Cache County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, Cache County Council, 1997

[4] An Early History of Cache County… compiled by M.R. Hovey, Logan Chamber of Commerce, 1923. Op website MendonUtah.Net

The emotions of the flour sack

In June 2019 I did research in the Ypres Salient, Belgium.
The Friends of the In Flanders Fields Museum published this interview in VIFF Magazine no. 70, 2019-3:

“Last summer, artist and researcher Annelien van Kempen, hailing from Voorburg in the Netherlands, did research on the collection of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, focusing on the decorated flour sacks of Herbert Hoovers Commission for Relief in Belgium with support of the Koen Koch Foundation.
The Koen Koch Foundation raises funds through membership fees and donations to the Friends of the In Flanders Fields Museum to support students and trainees with their studies on WWI in the Ypres Salient or on the IFFM Collection.

The sacks of flour from the USA and Canada were intended as food aid to occupied Belgium in World War I. Generally, you do not assign a backbone or feelings to a flour sack. The Belgian seamstresses, embroiderers, lace workers and painters who artfully worked on the sacks, however, testified to enthusiasm, creativity and ingenuity, as well as patriotism and deep gratitude towards the generous donors. The IFFM already houses a number of masterpieces, which further fueled Annelien van Kempen’s passion for her research subject.”

Interview and photos by Marc Dejonckheere.

You can read the interview here.

My article ” Flour sacks. The art of charity” has been published in the 2020 Yearbook of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres. In the article I describe my discoveries and put Ypres’ collection of flour sacks in their historical context.  Please read my blog here.

De emotie van de meelzak

In juni 2019 ben ik op zakkenreis geweest in de Westhoek in België. Ik deed onderzoek in Ieper*), Veurne, Waregem en Nazareth en verbleef in Zonnebeke.
Marc Dejonckheere interviewde mij voor VIFF Magazine van de Vrienden van het In Flanders Fields Museum. Het tijdschrift plofte gisteren bij me op de mat!

Nederlandse Annelien van Kempen voert onderzoek naar versierde meelzakken uit WO I

Annelien van Kempen onderzoekt de collectie meelzakken van het In Flanders Fields Museum. Foto: Marc Dejonckheere

“De voorbije zomer deed kunstenares en onderzoekster Annelien van Kempen uit het Nederlandse Voorburg met steun van het Koen Kochfonds research naar de versierde meelzakken van Herbert Hoovers Commission for Relief in Belgium in de collectie van het In Flanders Fields Museum in Ieper. De zakken vol meel uit de VS en Canada waren bedoeld als voedselhulp aan het bezette België in WO I.

Annelien van Kempen toont de onbewerkte en bewerkte meelzak ‘Gold Medal’ in de IFFM-collectie. Foto: Marc Dejonckheere

Doorgaans ken je geen ruggengraat of gevoelens toe aan een bloemzak.
De Belgische naaisters, borduursters, kantwerksters en schilders die de zakken kunstig bewerkten, getuigden echter van enthousiasme, creativiteit en vindingrijkheid, evenzeer als patriottisme en diepe dankbaarheid ten aanzien van de gulle schenkers.
Het IFFM herbergt alvast enkele topstukken, die de passie van Annelien van Kempen voor haar onderzoeksobject verder aanwakkerden.”

VIFF Magazine nr. 70, juli-sept. 2019.
De vragen en foto’s zijn van Marc Dejonckheere.

U leest het interview hier.



*) In het Jaarboek 2020 van het In Flanders Fields Museum is mijn artikel ‘De weldaad van de meelzak’ verschenen. Daarin doe ik verslag van mijn ontdekkingen en schets de context van de collectie versierde meelzakken.